We suck so bad we should give up entirely on trying to make good music. That's a message to Americans from Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke.
OK, so it's not a direct quote-it's more of a bastardization of a loose paraphrase. But Okereke does think that in the last few years, his side of the Atlantic has taken the lead in the great U.K./U.S. Rock-Off. It wouldn't be the first time the Brits have taken our invention, improved on it, stole our best chicks and made them faint from pleasure overload (see: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, Radiohead).
Okereke acknowledges that we had a good run in the first decade of this century and that it's entirely possible we'll make a comeback soon-he just doesn't see any viable competitors right now.
"This kind of thing goes back and forth between the two countries," he says. "There will probably be some amazing bands that will kick all of our limey asses soon. That's how it was with At the Drive-In. That's how it was with The Strokes a few years ago."
He does make some good points. America has arty bands and big bands-it just doesn't have an arty band that's made it really big (well, we do have Tool, but that's only one minor wrench in Okereke's theory). And we have kinda had a U.K. sweet tooth lately. If you're not a fan of Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand or Kaiser Chiefs, you're probably digging The Futureheads, Editors or Bloc Party. And if you're not, odds are some rock critic is insisting you should.
Because the Brits eat hype for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there's a good chance you heard about Bloc Party before you heard them (if you still haven't heard them, try to imagine a black, more-hardcore, less-geisha Robert Smith fronting an art-punk band).
"We live on a very small island where everyone is obsessed with what's coming next," says Okereke. "So we've been very nonchalant about the hype. We have to be."
Like Arctic Monkeys after them and Oasis before them, Bloc Party are part of a long line of U.K. exports heralded as the best band to come out of the country in a decade.
"It's been like this from the very beginning," says Okereke. "From the moment we signed a record deal we've been pushed in people's faces as band to watch for this year or a band to watch for next year. I'm so used to it that I feel like this is the only way to be in a band."
And now, just when the fanfare has started to quiet, Bloc Party has gone public about their follow-up to Silent Alarm. The news: it's nearly done and very different.
"We've been really getting into black metal and, let's see, lots of Hungarian folk music," he says. "No, only joking. We haven't run out of ideas yet."
The songs are written, the demos recorded. Okereke and his bandmates-guitarist Russell Lissack, bassist Gordon Moakes and drummer Matt Tong-just need to make the thing. Only not together.
Okereke wants to try a more disjointed approach to the new material. Along with his usual doses of electronica, he's been listening to a lot of Missy Elliot and Basement Jaxx to absorb the cut-and-paste ethos of making records.
"I didn't want the four of us playing in a room together because I don't want to be your average guitar band," he says. "There's a tendency for musicians to solve everything in a musical way and you can tend to overplay things or overthink things. I'm hoping that with this record, we can juxtapose things that don't necessarily belong on the same track."
It could be awful. Or it could be fantastic. If the latter, we just might be in for another half-decade under British rule.
Bloc Party play Street Scene on Saturday, Aug. 5.